— Katherine Miller (@katherinemiller) November 8, 2020
A delightful backgrounder for last night:
WILMINGTON, Delaware — About five hours before polls closed on Election Day, 21 empty pickup trucks appeared in the parking lot of the Chase Center, sitting in two careful rows facing the stage where Joe Biden was supposed to address the nation in a victory speech later that evening.
The fleet of Jeep Gladiators and Jeep Wranglers, along with some Ford Rangers and Chevy Silverados, had been arranged in alternating colors of red, white, and blue, all with open backs or sunroofs, and hoods stamped with BIDEN–HARRIS decals. They were reserved for the family and friends who would be arriving with Biden to his socially distanced “drive-in” rally — the proverbial front row in a sea of other cars. Sitting opposite a freshly installed panel of bulletproof glass, US Secret Service protection befitting a president-elect, they had the clean and perfect look of new rental cars, windows darkened, paint gleaming in the sun. In the style of a tailgate, aides had placed a pair of blue folding chairs in the back of each truck.
By 11 p.m., it was clear there wouldn’t be a final result that night. Light-up foam batons, stamped with the campaign logo for guests in the parking lot, never got distributed. After midnight, when Biden finally did arrive, his motorcade sped into the parking lot of the adjacent Westin hotel, and his party took their seats in the Jeeps: There was his brother Jimmy Biden, Jill Biden’s sisters, and the former vice president’s sister, Valerie Biden Owens, watching from the roof of a Jeep. They had waited a long time for this night. Around 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday, they finally got to see him take the stage, only to say “we’re going to have to be patient” and “keep the faith.” After three minutes, Biden waved goodbye, and headed home…
Throughout the week, his campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon hosted daily Zoom briefings, laying out projections for the outstanding vote. On Thursday, Biden published a transition website, saying he was dedicated to preparing for his possible administration and would “continue preparing at full speed.” That afternoon, he and Harris attended briefings on the economy and the coronavirus pandemic, which is deep in a deadly third wave that has brought the total number of American deaths to more than 236,000. On Friday, Biden aides believed they would finally get their call, going public with plans for a victory party, broadcast live on primetime television. The networks held off, and once again, Biden passed the stage, empty and waiting, to address reporters inside the Chase Center.
“As slow as it goes, it can be numbing,” he said of watching the numbers come in on TV. “But never forget: The tallies aren’t just numbers. They represent votes and voters, men and women who exercise the fundamental right to have their voice heard.”…
Biden's 'victory caused people to weep in joyful relief as they became aware of the heaviness that had afflicted their hearts, after they’d suddenly been relieved of it.' Do read this beautiful essay by @RobinGivhan https://t.co/75l50R1MvX
— Margaret Sullivan (@Sulliview) November 8, 2020
… As the country waited for ballots to be counted, it was Biden — not the occupant of the Oval Office — who was reassuring people that this democracy was intact, that the system was working and that the center would hold. He was the voice of calm optimism in the midst of tumultuous times.
When he became president-elect late Saturday morning, he did something far more herculean than accepting responsibility for a worsening pandemic and a struggling economy. He removed a terrible, suffocating weight from the back of this nation. For the more than 74 million Americans who voted for him — and surely even for some of those who did not — Biden’s election allowed this country to laugh, to dance and to breathe. He cracked open a space where the light could shine through. Indeed, his victory caused people to weep in joyful relief as they became aware of the heaviness that had afflicted their hearts, after they’d suddenly been relieved of it…
Black voters raised up Biden because he was the tonic they believed a divided and exasperated nation could accept and he was the reliable partner they could trust. He was a pragmatic choice, but that doesn’t lesson his value. He was the loyal and supportive vice president to Barack Obama — willing to stand behind the country’s first Black president and to share both the beauty of that and the ugliness of it. The country was on the cusp of an era grappling with White grievance and White privilege and Biden, who had competed with Obama in the primaries, accepted his professional shortfall and joined his team. And that said something about Biden’s character, namely that it’s not a hostage to his personal success.
He turned around and helped a Black woman — an Asian American woman — take in the rarefied air of high power when he chose Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) as his running mate. She brought her own skills and constituency to the ticket. She benefited him in his ambitions, and if he has taught this country any single lesson from this choice and his victory, it’s that there’s wisdom in making space for the expertise and abilities of Black women…
At a moment when this country’s wounds are deeper and more dire than financial, Biden — the man who has grieved under the public’s gaze, been professionally humbled in the harsh spotlight, spoken earnestly and impolitically of his support for same-sex marriage, and admitted mistakes in his earlier stances on criminal justice — seemed uniquely suited to this moment that was deeply in need of compassion. He is a man who understands that leadership sometimes means simply being human and being able to see the humanity in others. Leadership means carrying the burden so that others might breathe easier or can shine brighter…
Joe Biden told us we were better than the president* we elected in 2016, that the better angels of our nature were not taking a few years off. He will be the 46th President of the United States. https://t.co/aqv6ZJ4Njy
— Charles P. Pierce (@CharlesPPierce) November 7, 2020
(My Irish granny, and Irish-American Nana, would give the tone of this piece so much side-eye. The phrases ‘shanty Irish bog-trotter’ and ‘common as pig tracks’ might well have been spoken.)
… Joe Biden has come through a lot of history, and not unscathed, either. I applied to be one of his speechwriters in 1976, fresh out of college. (I didn’t get the gig, which is why he hasn’t built his library already.) Since then, he’s run for president three times. In 1988, he was sunk by a plagiarism scandal brought to light by operatives in the employ of Michael Dukakis. (When Mike Dukakis oppo’s you out of a race, it’s like losing a fistfight with Plato.) In 2008—Twenty years later!—he was swept aside by the phenomenon of Barack Obama, of whom he memorably once said,
“I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”
And this is why campaign aides jump out of windows.
Obama, of course, held no grudges and, by picking Biden as a running mate, revived his career as cool Uncle Joe, one of the more remarkable charisma transfusions in the history of American politics. There is no question that Biden was transformed by the vice presidency, making him the first vice president to be elevated rather than minimized by that office, at least without the president’s having died. The gaffe-ridden friend of the Delaware financial-services industry slipped on the aviators, unleashed his killer smile, and found his way back to being the decent guy, friend of the Amtrak commuters, damn fine Dad, that everybody who really knew him always said he was…